Andi Jones has been arguably Britain's most consistent male marathon runner over recent years with nine performances between 2:19 and 2:15 since 2005. However, with the Olympic A standard of 2:12 looming large, the Salford Harrier is hoping that he can turn this consistency into a one-off performance that would see him book his place on Team GB for the London Olympics.

Jones believes that his consistency is largely down to the work that he has done with his long term coach, Bob Merrell. Both are hoping that 2012 will see the best result to date. Jones said:"My consistency is from having a coach who has coached me for years and knows how I run best and what training works for us. Bob and I have been together for over ten years now and have had some great results. I have been pleased with my marathon times and we both believe I can go quicker and should have gone quicker. Hopefully this year we will go quicker, quick enough to achieve our joint aim."

He continued: 
"I am very optimistic that I can better my PB of 2:15.20 from a few years ago now. Training has gone very well and my sessions have been very encouraging. I feel strong on my runs, have been recovering well between runs and sessions and enjoying the running I am doing. I have some good training partners who I run with during the week and this helps when running so many miles."

With training heading in such a positive direction, Jones can ill-afford any disruptions at this stage. A potential set back came along in the form of a quad problem but it appears that his vast experience allowed him to ensure that swift action was taken to eradicate the problem before a more serious injury could develop.

He explained: "The quad seems to be fine right now, touch wood. I am not sure what happened, but if I am honest I suppose I first felt a pain in it last weekend and thought nothing of it, other than it being a tight spot from the high mileage. By the time my Monday evening run had finished I knew that I had to rest it or muck it up for a long time. I opted to rest it for two full days. It’s not like me to want to take time out, but I seem to be learning that missing a few days isn’t the end of the world and in the long run will help me out. So hopefully the sore quad is over with now and we can resume our focus on training and the Virgin London Marathon.

Marathon runners are always looking for ways to improve, and this year Jones has adopted a different approach to racing in the build up to his main target. He said: "
The biggest change I have made this year is the amount of racing that I have been doing. I am well known for doing lots of races and thought nothing of sticking a ten mile race in my long Sunday run. But I don’t think this was helping things so we decided only to do a few races which fitted our plans. These races have been the Greater Manchester XC and Northern XC and will also include the Trafford 10k, Northern and National 12 stage."

The Greater Manchester XC was good and I just wish more runners supported the event. I was pleased with this race. The Northern XC was a tough day. I had come off a big mileage week and eased down for the race, but the legs didn’t like it and didn’t respond well to the ease down. I think I would have run better if I hadn’t bothered easing down! So out of the two cross country races I did I had a mixed bag of results. I like cross country, I really enjoy them, but I just don’t do enough of them."

With a real love for the competitive aspect of running, it has been something of a shock to the system fror Jones to be lining up for races more sparingly: "For me this isn’t many races and you have to consider that I like racing, that’s why I started running. Hopefully this approach will work for me as sometimes I think we have done too many races in the buildup to the marathon."

Jones is a family man and, although he is fully committed to athletics, admits that running will always take a back seat to the more important aspects of his life. He explained: "I have to say my family life comes first. Kadi and Donna have to come before any training. I have missed the odd run if one of them is ill but on the whole I get my running done, I get to spend time with them and Donna gets her training done."

Similarly, working as a teacher limits the possibility of Jones giving 100% to his training: "The day job of teaching pays the bills so is very important. I do believe that if I was able to reduce my hours at work I would have more time for recovery between runs and sessions and I do believe this would help with performances in races. Going away to altitude training venues is just not an option. Donna wouldn’t mind, but getting time out of school for such trips would be impossible. They would let me go but tell me not to rush back as I wouldn’t have a job upon return!"

So what is Jones expecting of the big day at the end of April? Just like all of the elite British males, Jones will enter the race with a very positive mindset and there will only be one time on his mind:
 "My plan for the race has to be that qualifying time for the Olympic Games. I am more than willing to go out at 2:12 pace with the thought and belief that I can run sub 2:12. I would much prefer to fail from trying rather than fail through lack of trying."

"How do I know what I can run if I don’t give it ago? Is it not better to have failed than to fail to try? I think at the moment the plan is to go through half way at just quicker than 2:12 pace with an aim of maintaining this pace in the second half.  I have ran the London Marathon enough times now to know the course, to know the tough miles and I hope that this experience will help me come race day.

Jones can certainly rely on the support of the British public that will, as ever, line the course for almost the whole 26.2 miles. The experiences and memories of racing in the capital are savoured by Jones. He recalled: "The London Marathon is my favorite marathon, if not my favorite race as well. My first ever race was the London Marathon and I remember it like it was yesterday. My mum and dad took me to the race and my one target was to break four hours. I had done very little training for it but seen many thousands of people run it, so how hard can it be? Well I found out how hard it can be by dragging myself round it in 3 hours 52 minutes. I did what I set off to do which was to break four hours, but also then got a bug for running which hasn’t stopped since."

"I never ran as a junior, I didn’t even realise there was such a big running scene in England for students to get involved with. I do wish the school I went to as a student had spent more time on athletics and less time on football and rugby, neither of which I was any good at. The London marathon is a big event and the support on the course is amazing. Being towards the front end of the race now is great as the crowds can be four or five deep and they are shouting you on and using the name on the front of your bib."

One memory of racing in London particularly stands out for Jones as being symbolic of the 'ondon Marathon experience: "I remember running across Tower Bridge one year all alone. The only runner on the bridge with hundreds, if not thousands of people clapping and cheering. Knowing there were a few runners up ahead and possibly 40,000 runners behind makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The other marathons I have run have been good, well organised events, but London Marathon knows marathons and does a great job."

Jones is modest, selfless and committed which is exemplified by his message to those heading to London on April 22nd: "Good luck to everyone running the marathon. I hope we all achieve our personal goals."

By Craig Gundersen